Anna Ceolin, Brand Manager, Palm Beach™ Custom Shutters
Hunter Douglas Window Fashions
The hard window covering market has experienced tremendous growth with the custom interior shutter over the past three years. Based on the success of our Palm Beach Custom Shutters, it would appear this trend will continue well through 2002.
Advancements in design, materials and manufacturing techniques have reinvigorated the category so that a new generation of consumers can enjoy the time-honored look of shutters. Our patented Lantana™ style without the tilt bar has been a real success. The fact that Palm Beach shutters are made of uniquely formulated UV-resistant Poly-Satin™ compounds increases their longevity and expands their application to high-moisture areas and humid climates.
CHOOSE A SHUTTER PARTNER
The state of the shutter industry is strong, and the forecast for 2002 for the shutter retailer is absolutely great.
As with all high-end items (whether in our industry or another), it is not how much am I paying, but am I receiving the quality that I am paying for? As dealers have become quite knowledgeable about wood shutters the two main objectives they will be looking for are quality and service loyalty.
The dealer should use the following as a guide to help choosing a partner in custom wood shutters:
• Work only with a loyal, 100 percent wholesale supplier to the trade only. Avoid the wood shutter manufacturers who are "factory direct." A common scenario creating constant frustration is that the same company the dealer is buying from is usually knocking on the homeowner's door trying to steal the sale from him.
• Deal only with a shutter manufacturer that has the proper knowledge and experience in manufacturing to guide and assist in creating beautiful shutter solutions, which creates happy customers and helps generate positive referrals for the dealer after the sale.
• Look for a custom wood shutter manufacturer that has a national distribution and marketing system so as to cover all possible needs such as local showroom facilities, marketing tools and quick service.
• Research to ensure that the quality of the materials (lumber and finishing) is of the best standards so as to eliminate unnecessary problems.
• Confirm that the manufacturer's features, options, custom capabilities and delivery can accommodate all and any options so you do not lose any potential opportunities.
This guide will help you with choosing the best shutter supplier who is looking to work with you as a partner, hand-in-hand, and not only as a customer.
ROBUST GROWTH SEEN
Bill Gaul, President
Gulf Coast Window Covering
Even in a softer economy, the shutter industry should remain robust in 2002. With any upscale product such as shutters, the higher-end consumer will still have the dollars to suggest this type of purchase.
The classic look of shutters in 2 1/2-, 3 1/2- and 4 1/2-inch louvers is stronger than ever. Wood shutters will remain strong and competitive in the Southwest with vinyl shutters increasing their market share.
Overall, the forecast is to see a 10 percent growth in shutter sales during 2002.
TRUE QUALITY COMES AT A PRICE
Chris Tietz, President
The Kirtz Shutters
Segmentation will increase, but the quest for quality never quits. Growth in demand will be slow or flat for truly high-quality shutters made from real hardwoods in which handcraftsmanship imparts character allowing time to produce the patina of age and not decay. This true quality comes at a price not affordable by everyone.
Intense advertising and promotion to exploit the "quest for quality" in the mass market for low-quality imitations and knock-offs—machined from composites and synthetics—will produce rapid growth for a while until the novelty wears off and defects become obvious.
At Kirtz, we are not interested in participating in this temporary bonanza. We intend to continue making high-quality shutters long after the imitation fad has become history.
Viken Ohanesian, Director of Marketing
US Polymers Inc.
We're really seeing wood and vinyl shutters grow at an unprecedented pace. While wood shutters still command a large market share, vinyl shutters are rapidly catching up. The reason: blind stores and designers are taking on vinyl shutters like never before to meet an insatiable consumer demand.
We see a bright 2002 and are finding that ShutterSmart's vinyl clad wood technology is really working well and being embraced by many new shutter blind dealers.
TIMELESS AND SUPERIOR
Joyce Ryan, Shutter Sales Manager
Mastercraft Industries Inc.
Mastercraft Shutter Industries is confident in the progressive expansion of wood shutters for the coming year. Quality and value is the key to the future. Custom shutters are a timeless and superior window covering that has increased in popularity the past 15 years. Our shutter team is excited about the potential the future holds for our industry.
The general public is becoming increasingly aware of the value that shutters add to their homes and the many different decors that can be complemented with the simple lines of shutters, in addition to their insulating factors.
Traditional 1 1/4-inch louvered panels with the Colonial Eastern appeal has taken a new upward swing in the marketplace. We look forward to the new year's challenge.
CAUTIOUS CONSUMERS LOOK FOR COST-EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS
Shane Brunell, Senior Product Manager
Comfortex Window Fashions
Even with the global economy slowing, I expect the shutter category to continue to grow; just not as quickly. The category overall will grow, but the mix will continue to move toward the synthetic styles as more and more consumers are exposed to the various brands continuing to enter the market.
Many consumers will recognize the benefits of the synthetic models and, coupled with the lower consumer pricing, will choose these over 100 percent wood. Wood models will remain in control of the category, but suppliers and dealers may need to re-evaluate pricing structures to continue strong growth.
Another threat to shutter category growth has been, and will continue to be, other alternative wood products. Over the past two years, Comfortex has successfully launched the Privacy Plus Shutter Blind and more recently, the 2 1/2-inch Plantation Shutter Blind. These types of products offer similar features and aesthetics and offer consumers even lower cost alternatives to expensive wood shutters. With the continued economic slowdown leaving consumers even more cautious with their expenditures, more and more people will turn to these products as a cost effective solution to their needs.
HERE TO STAY
Shutters are here to stay. Once upon a time they were made only from wood. Now they are made from anything or a combination of everything . . . well, almost. Even so, wood still is the benchmark standard against which all others are compared.
As the list of new products and systems continues to grow, small true custom shops will find it increasingly difficult to survive in the maze of component shops that push synthetic and clad materials trying to meet the middle- to low-end price point market. Price and hype will always be on the marquee, but the most enduring quality comes from wood, and the greatest attention to detail will be found in the small custom shops.
Good quality custom work is not cheap to produce, but the accompanying satisfaction and peace of mind only costs a little more. Yes, the market has several suitors, but her true love is wood—2002 will prove that.
FACTORY AUTOMATION MEANS QUICKER, LESS COSTLY PRODUCTS
Lance Reed, President
G&L Technologies Inc.
Builders are incorporating wood shutters into the construction of their homes; individuals are financing the cost into their mortgages; and when searching the Web for plantation shutters, not only are retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers listed, but so are real estate agents using plantation shutters as a focal or selling point.
As shutters become more popular, we will see a wide variety of materials, quality, paints, stains and schemes. As more manufacturers standardize their shutters to fill the shelves of Home Depot or Lowes for the do-it-yourselfers, you will see even more capability to order shutters off the World Wide Web. Shutter manufacturers are heading toward factory automation, making it easier to manufacture a quality custom shutter more quickly and less costly.
SPECIALIZATION: A GOOD STRATEGY
T. Brant O'Hair
O'Hair Shutters, Inc.
For 2002, O'Hair Shutters, Inc. forecasts a growth rate of between five and 15 percent. The higher rate may be realized if the economy enters recovery within the first half of the year. If the downturn continues, a growth rate as low as five percent may be the result.
The custom shutter industry as a whole should see similar numbers. Specialization in custom shutter work continues to be a good strategy for those determined to survive the learning curve. Even in times of recession, custom shutter volume in the U.S. market has consistently grown.
FINANCIALLY ATTRACTIVE, TOO
Although recent events may have caused some to change their shutter sales forecasts, the good news is that housing sales should be up due to significantly reduced interest rates. Also, shutters are a fixed upgrade to the home and therefore can be included in the mortgage.
The bottom line is that the need and desire for shutters is sill there and could be a more financially attractive option over other window treatments.